Much of the Everquest community's attention still lies on the Progression Server, now named "The Combine". SOE currently plans to release this server at the end of June. A lot of players are returning to the long forgotten lands of Norrath to remember the first days adventurers walked the lands. Whether or not they stay is a question yet answered.
Today brings the release of the largest patch since the release of Prophecy of Ro. While it contained few of the much needed content changes to Prophecy of Ro, it did contain a plethora of feature fixes.
Two improvements in particular may seem mundane to experienced players but do much to make Everquest a more accessible game for new players. Players can now see group members on the in-game map, helping them locate their fellows when they get lost. I can't even fathom the amount of time I would earn back if this feature had been implemented six years ago. The next feature is the inclusion of the Guild Lobby into the core game. The ability for players to summon their body regardless of whether they purchased Dragons of Norrath is a huge improvement for lower and mid-level players who have neither the tools nor the experience to find corpses lost in the less forgiving pits of the older worlds.
These two improvements help bring Everquest closer to the industry standards for massive online role playing games. While many may shout, stamp their feet, and wave their fists saying that it is just the further "dumbing down" of Everquest - we will see how long they play on the Combine server suffering through eight hour corpse runs in Fear or sixteen-zone runs to get back their bronze armor. Long behind me are the days of horrifying corpse recovery - recovery that directly adversely affected my real life - and good riddance.
This patch also included the implementation of a new chat service back-end. While advertised as "transparent to the user", the service did have a few bugs. Using a semicolon to send a cross-server tell no longer works and chatting in channels from EQIM also no longer works. No doubt this change helped SOE consolidate resources, but it would have been nice to ensure a truly transparent shift before implementation.
SOE modified experience gain for evolving items, intelligent items, and shrouds. In all three cases, experience gain has improved and now follows the same modifiers that regular experience follows when grouping. As players join others in groups, each player earns a higher percentage of experience than they would alone. Now experience earned by items and when transformed through shrouds includes the same bonuses.
Along with this change, SOE increased the amount of required experience for the single most popular evolving item, the cloak of the spirit tracker. This increase in total experience gain means that players who may have been 40% into the item's progression are now down to 10%. This change may be off-set by the overall increase in item experience, but again, only time will tell if the balance was met.
Today, SOE released one of the long awaited changes to the Everquest death system. Along with the full release of the guild lobby to all players, players will now begin losing experience and leaving equipped corpses starting at level 6. A corpse summoner in the tutorial will teach players how to recover their body using the summoners. While this doesn't meet the ideal circumstance of returning to a bind point fully equipped on death, it does help show players how to handle the death system in Everquest when they might be used to the systems in newer games.
This patch also released a new and much improved Nektulos forest. The previous version of Nektulos, released with the release of Depths of Darkhollow, often received complaints that it broke the realism of a forest. Instead of individual trees, that version had large single-sided objects painted with the texture of trees. This gave it the feel of a movie-set instead of a forest. The new Nektulos matches much of the layout of the original Nektulos but with a much improved look.
In the greatest retroactive nerf to the original Everquest legacy, no longer will moss-snakes kick. All animals not able to actually kick can no longer do so. While this change makes sense, it seems to be an extreme change to a piece of long lasting Everquest mythology. The elusive kicking moss snake will be forever missed.
Times are quiet in the lands of Norrath. The high-end raiders seek the beasts at the end of Deathknell and the treasures they hold. Others look to the history captured in the Combine. For those of us in between, we stare across the voids left in Ro's Prophecy and think to the days of adventure long past and far into the future.
13 June 2006